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I've had many experiences where the very fact of roleplaying triggered some concerned comment from the "uninitiated," likely parents or neighbors. Some examples:

  • A friend of mine hosted a Vampires session in a small square in his neighborhood, during a very nice summer evening. They played by candlelight (citronella ones, since mosquitoes are a bane where I lived). Neighbors were concerned that a satanic ritual was in progress.
  • I've been asked by my parents what kind of game this "roleplaying game" is, and "are you sure is not some kind of strange thing?" When I explained it to them, they didn't understand exactly how it worked. Ironically, my parents when young were crucial players in the deployment of the historical restoration of my city's Palio, which can be rightfully defined "LARP on steroids."
  • A friend of mine (a young but highly skilled medical doctor who had already saved some lives) was stopped by a preacher: he replied that he was not interested, since his god was already Bahamut, describing him as a good dragon. Clearly a joke, but the preacher cowered away saying that it was an evil plot of the devil.
  • Finally, on the net you can find plenty of material about this argument.

Now, we mostly laugh at these things. Personally, the best answer I was able to use as a comeback was, "The fact that you played a lot of Monopoly in your youth didn't turn you into an evil corporate executive who bankrupts friends and sniffs coke with their money."

My question is: has this situation happen to you? What is the best answer to give as a simple comeback?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Monopoly argument is made of sheer genius. \$\endgroup\$ – Tsojcanth Aug 27 '10 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ A LARP I'm involved with bills itself as "interactive theater". It's impressive how much more respectable many people see it after they hear that. \$\endgroup\$ – MrTheWalrus May 19 '14 at 20:53

10 Answers 10

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In the early 80s, we played AD&D, Gamma World and other games at the local pizza parlor in our town. Some concerned citizens/religious whack-jobs/folks got wind that we were doing that and started dropping off Chick Tracts with us. It was the heyday of D&D fear and I had friends with parents who would hear some crazy untruths about D&D and take away (and even destroy!) all their game-books.

But these folks -- whom we dismissed at first, really wanted to save our heathen butts. So eventually, we engaged them in conversation. At one point they claimed that anything you do with your time that doesn't glorify Christ is an abomination. They didn't have a good answer about the value of picking your nose or putting on your shoes. But they were actually civil and well-mannered. We tried to get them to join us for a game -- to tell us how it was sinful. They watched a bit but would never play. They also stopped coming around.

I like to hope that maybe they learned something and changed their priorities.

I haven't really encountered anything like that since.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are also excellent resources on the web, like TheEscapist.com's page about "Bad Things" in RPGs that describe and debunk many of the myths about roleplaying games being satanic or otherwise bad. If the person who is concerned is open to reading an article from the RPG side discussing these claims, it can be an invaluable way to give them a better perspective of what the games really are about. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge May 15 '14 at 21:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @clweeks - Wow, that's completely insane. Somehow my friends and I missed out on all of the D&D panic in the 1980s. In fact our parents once hired the college kid who lived down the street to DM a D&D game for us - he was paid $6/hour. Maybe living in a university town made it a more permissive environment concerning RPGs, but there were still plenty of religious nuts around. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF May 20 '14 at 15:30
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Most of them go away once invited to sit and listen to it. The older generation generally knew what a "radioplay" was, so I could describe RPGs as improvisational radioplays with dice to reduce player control of outcomes and prevent the old Cops-n-Robbers "I shot you!" - "No, you missed me."

After age 18, if I had a player under 17, I'd insist that a parent give permission. Many asked to sit in. One joined in.

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Back in the '80s one of the first people I gamed with was a pretty unlikely gamer. His dad worked for the sheriff's department, was a religious conservative, and at first blush would never be the kind of parent who would allow his son anywhere near D&D (or The Arduin Grimoire for that matter).

But my friend Steve was pretty savvy about it. He showed his dad the 1st ed. AD&D books and honed in on the areas where Gygax called attention to the influences on the game, and how it was about epic adventure. He showed the character classes, the evil monsters that were the opposition, and he talked his dad through a simple scenario, analogizing it to Tolkien books and '50s B-movies.

He took the mystery out of these games by explaining them in terms his father could relate to and understand. Every Saturday afternoon as we sat in the garage playing, Steve's dad would pop in and crack jokes about us smoking pot. Obviously he was a lot happier knowing we were safe in his garage sitting around a table telling stories than getting into actual trouble.

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I also always used Monopoly as an example; only I always asked them if they thought Monopoly could be blamed for making people participate in insider trading.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I played Tetris when I was a kid, and now I'm a construction worker! WHERE IS MY LAWSUIT MATERIAL \$\endgroup\$ – Logan MacRae Aug 27 '10 at 12:41
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Outline of a response: "I'm an adult who is gainfully employed, pays my bills and taxes, and doesn't break the law nor do I encourage immoral or illegal behavior in others. That I choose a hobby that is, for me, an enjoyable creative outlet is perfectly acceptable. Reasonable adults allow that other reasonable adults can engage in activities they find silly, stupid, or useless without those people ceasing to be reasonable adults. They even realize other reasonable adults might have the same opinions of their hobby and laugh it all off as part of the human comedy."

Remember, such a response must be tailored to the audience. If it's your parents expressing concern about how this could change your behavior emphasize that it is not impacting your attending to responsibilities, other parts of life, or leading to immoral behavior (and if it is then perhaps you do need to attend to it). If it's a busy-body neighbor them turn up the snark if you like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please keep in mind that for many people this could be considered as condescending - if I were a parent being genuinely worried for my kid (even if said kid was 40 or so) this answer would not only fail to calm me, but it would also make me feel disappointed and sad. Don't settle for a 'best comeback' if the people you're talking to are worried about you. \$\endgroup\$ – Maurycy May 15 '14 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reasonable adults allow that other reasonable adults can engage in activities they find silly, stupid, or useless without those people ceasing to be reasonable adults To include silly activities like ... golf. :) To which I was addicted for years. @Maurycy As I read it, Herb's response is a response to being condescended to in the first place by concern trolls in real life. It is paying back in the coin received. Sometimes, people need a poke in the ribs to realize that they are being rude. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 31 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Which is why I made it clear that I am talking about people being worried about you :). \$\endgroup\$ – Maurycy May 31 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Maurycy OK, fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 31 at 20:18
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For those who face opposition to RPGs from Christians, I would like to recommend the Christian Gaming Guild. It's a page created by Christians role-players, defending the industry and hobby from a Christian POV, and its FAQ section includes articles touching on the subject of RPG and covers basic questions as to what is a RPG, whether is related to the occult etc. There's also a Chaplain section which reconciles elements of RPG to the Christian faith.

It also features links to other articles and resources on the web that may help.

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It's never happened to me, thankfully. I would add the excellent Pulling Report from Mike Stackpole to the pile of things you can show people -- it's somewhat dated now but it did a lot to help our image back in the 90s.

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"Interactive Storytelling"

That's my standard reply about the nature of role-playing games.

I worked briefly in a company that ran tabletop games sessions (including RPGs) for kids, so we had more or less rehearsed "What is a role-playing game?" for concerned parents.

The gist of it is that a role-playing game is an interactive storytelling session: we meet together to weave a tale. We use dice for determining some outcomes where failure could provide an interesting advancement of the story.

Depending on the parents we could go explaining the virtues of roleplaying for character development (no pun intended), or expand a bit about the history, or the rules. Because the two latter probably you already know...

One of the concepts we try to convey to parents is that role-play is good for their kids: we can simulate conflict so they learn to deal with social pressures, take hard decisions, and so. On the "advanced sessions" for older kids, we also added the idea of making math "fun", and resource management, as Hit Points are a finite resource, so are healing points and spells. We also had a talking point about stimulating creativity but I never got to memorize it (I seldom used it, sorry).

Finally, one of my tricks was to make them play a small scenario, to emphasize the "interactive storytelling". It ran something like this: "Let's say you are a group of knights and the king has told you to save this town from a menace, that he could not determine, as the message was half burned. What would you do?", and try to make them create a story. Usually there's a point when I make them flip a coin to explain the randomness mechanics, and also try to make them discuss strategy...

Even the ones that "don't get it" tend to be aware that the others were having fun, and that extends to the kids, squared.

(Of course, this last trick works well with a decent audience, as not everyone will be receptive, and you will rely on peer pressure for these to engage.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 30 at 8:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast thanks! I know this question is old but none of the answers I've read (except aramis) seemed to take the approach to try to explain these guys what a role-playing game is in a way that don't make feel suspicious :) \$\endgroup\$ – Stormbolter May 30 at 10:21
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Although a lot of people you encounter in casual conversation might not be interested, there are some good academic responses that were written back from the days of BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons). I recommend a chapter from The Satanism Scare edited by Daniel Martin and Gary Alan Fine called "Satanic Cults, Satanic Play: Is 'Dungeons & Dragons' a Breeding Ground for the Devil?"

There are a number of other references I can get, including a paper I've written in my graduate work, if you are interested.

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Something I like to do is find a role playing game with an incredibly friendly face on it that is good to go for a single session. Don't present it as a role playing game, present it as you would present any board game. Then after the game is over "HAHA! you just played a role playing game!" That will teach most people their lesson.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't help but imagine that this would actually be almost impossible to pull off in reality. It would be too easy for a person biased against RPGs to reason that since you refused to show them the rules, you must be hiding all the really bad stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 22 '12 at 6:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe: So play an RPG that doesn't look like it when you show the rules. (Dread, Monkey, Microscope, Fiasco.) \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Jul 9 '12 at 9:49

protected by V2Blast May 30 at 22:01

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